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Leaders like Elon Musk want to pause AI development, but the power of the free market means it’s impossible to stop

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Elon MuskOpenAI CEO Sam Altman (left) has made OpenAI into the preeminent company in the AI arms race. Leaders like Elon Musk want to pause AI development, in the name of better understanding the tech.

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  • Elon Musk and other business leaders signed a letter urging a six-month pause in AI development.
  • But that’s a pipe dream, especially as OpenAI ups the ante in the AI arms race with ChatGPT upgrades..
  • Other companies know they have to act fast to keep up, making it unlikely they’ll stop for any reason.

More than a thousand business leaders signed a letter urging the slowdown in developing new, more powerful large language models like ChatGPT. The letter brought up questions of the signatories’ sincerity, hypocrisy, and if many of them even believed the tenets brought up in the open letter. 

Many in the industry agreed that powerful AI like ChatGPT might cause some harm to society, but a six-month moratorium on development sounded like a noble fairy-tale with little grounding in reality. 

From the moment the public was allowed to start testing OpenAI’s GPT-3 in November, there was no stopping the bullet train of generative AI development. OpenAI, in releasing ChatGPT and kickstarting the AI arms race, opened a Pandora’s Box.  And the power of market forces means that there’s no stopping the pace of AI development, even if companies like OpenAI wanted to.

As people (and their employers) get used to asking ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Microsoft’s upgraded AI-powered Bing all of their questions, the sheer power of demand will force the tech titans into a race to dominate this incredibly promising market.

“With generative AI, we created something that — for the time being and maybe forever — eludes our comprehension, so taking a moment to understand these systems would be a good idea,” said Giuseppe Sette, president of startup Toggle AI. “But we won’t do it. The field is simply too hot right now, and competition spans from Big Tech to China.”

The train has left the station, and there’s no going back

Since November, and arguably even before, generative AI has been the technology on everyone’s lips. OpenAI moved fast, extending a partnership with Microsoft to bring ChatGPT to its Bing search engine in January, and in the months since, it released a newer, even more, powerful version of ChatGPT, the GPT-4 model, and also opened its platform up to plugins from several companies like Slack, Instacart, and Klarna. 

To compete, Google quickly released its large language model called Bard. Then, Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu announced plans to release their competitors to ChatGPT. 

Not to mention the number of image-generating programs out there, some of which were created by OpenAI as well as programs like Stable Diffusion and DALL-E are taking the art and fashion world by storm

The letter from business leaders called for a pause in developing new AI models but did not address what to do with existing models like GPT-4. 

Other developers believe this is unfair; a six-month moratorium affects only those starting while giving powerful incumbents like OpenAI the space to continue growing their massive lead in the AI wars. Other startups feel many of the business leaders who signed the letter have the right idea in urging a better understanding of generative AI systems but do not want to slow down their momentum. 

That’s how it is when technology catches on and the hype train chugs along. Generative AI is now out there in the world. People have been using large language models and, unlike other hyped-up tech innovations that died, have found markets that clamor for its use. 

Even if we wanted to pause AI development, there’s not a clear way to enforce it

There’s also the problem of enforcement. 

“What’s the incentive for anyone to do a pause, because everybody’s running to grab more market share in a free market society,” said Jai Das, president and co-founder of growth stage VC Sapphire Ventures. “The genie’s out of the box, and there is nothing people can do to slow it down.”

Das said there’s no stopping companies from secretly working on large language models or partnering with Big Tech for research and development on AI. There is no entity that can visit every single developer in those six months to see if they’re working on code related to algorithms, Das said. 

But if the spirit of the letter — that we as a society need the time to understand the impact of AI better — has widespread support, but a slowdown is not feasible, what are we to do?

It’s not such an impossible task, but it also relies on something rarely seen in cutting-edge technology: a widespread industry agreement on standards. 

“There’s no way you can put a pause on anything. It’s not possible,” Das said. “Why can’t the industry start a dialogue and figure out how the problems that were articulated in the letter don’t happen.”

Time will tell if tech companies do sit down and hash out standards around AI use, but one thing is for sure. We may want AI to slow down so we can catch up, but it’s already racing ahead of us. And it’s not clear that we’ll be able to stop it. 

Read the original article on Business Insider
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